No. 1 Schniederjans goes down - to No. 776

By Ryan LavnerAugust 15, 2014, 12:06 am

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Surrounded by hundreds all day, Ollie Schniederjans just wanted to be alone. Late Thursday afternoon, he retreated to a private spot in the Atlanta Athletic Club locker room, in front of stall B-229.

Moments earlier, in front of about 300 hometown fans, the Georgia Tech junior had stumbled off the 18th green after a stunning 1-up loss to Gunn Yang in the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur.

“Who is that guy?” Schniederjans asked during a quiet moment in the locker room. “I mean, I’ve never heard of him. He’s going to be incredible. He’s the best player in the world … well, today he is.”

Today, perhaps, but to locate Yang in the world amateur rankings you’d have to keep scrolling – to No. 776.

Schniederjans, meanwhile, has played as the No. 1 all summer, and he likely will remain there at week’s end, earning him spots in both 2015 summer Opens.

Not that he was thinking about that consolation prize afterward.

“I’m just extremely disappointed,” he said.

The thing is, the 21-year-old could easily have bailed early. He could have followed NCAA Player of the Year Patrick Rodgers to the pros. After a school-record, five-win season, Schniederjans could have collected a big-time equipment deal, received a few sponsor exemptions, tried to make it on his own.

But turning pro early would have just felt … unsatisfying.

Despite never winning the NCAA team title, Georgia Tech has churned out a number of pro prospects over the years. Matt Kuchar and Bryce Molder won the Haskins Award as the nation’s best player. Troy Matteson won the NCAA title. David Duval was a four-time All-American.

So, sure, while Schniederjans acknowledges there is the potential to rewrite the school record books, that’s not his main motivation.

No, this is finally his year to be the guy, the No. 1, because during the 2013-14 season, he played so well but still didn’t receive the recognition he deserved.

U.S. Amateur: Articles, videos and photos

Last spring he engaged in a cross-country game of H.O.R.S.E. with Stanford’s Rodgers, each guy trading wins and top finishes as they battled for Player of the Year honors. With one final chance to sway voters, Schniederjans lost in a playoff at the NCAA Championship.

“The stress that he was under last spring,” Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler said, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The kid was burned out, physically and mentally, which is why he has played only one amateur event (Palmer Cup) this summer. In the weeks leading up to the Amateur, he quietly worked on his game and even headed to California, to the Titleist Performance Institute, to get his equipment dialed in.

“He wanted to make sure he had enough energy to deal with what was coming,” Heppler said, “and that was the weight of the world on his shoulders.”

That much was apparent during the 36-hole qualifier. Out of sync while playing in a painfully slow three-ball, Schniederjans carded an opening 73, placing him outside the cut line after Round 1.

“When he stepped to the tee on Monday, I told him: You want to know what Rory McIlroy will feel like when he steps to the first tee at Augusta? You’re feeling it now,” Heppler said.

“The players going against Rory are better, of course, but the emotions and feelings and nerves, they’re all the same, regardless of the competition. When you’re the guy, the world No. 1, in your hometown, all he could really do was screw it up.”

But he didn’t, rebounding with a 69 to advance to match play. When asked how it felt, to finally be the top player and the main target in an elite event, Schniederjans replied: “Great. In my comfort zone, like that’s where I should be.”

Which was yet another reason to come back for his senior year.

“Every single tournament he plays he’s going to be the favorite,” Heppler said. “You don’t learn that stuff by finishing 15th in a event. If you really want to progress, to be one of the best players in the world, you have to learn how to deal with the emotions.”

After a 6-and-5 win in the first round, Schniederjans let a late lead slip Thursday morning against Sam Burns. On the first playoff hole, he could only watch as Burns’ 10-footer to win slid by. Schniederjans wound up prevailing on the second playoff hole.

He seemed well on his way to cruising in the afternoon as well, jumping out to a 2-up lead through four holes. “So this is how the No. 1 player in amateur golf plays,” Yang said to himself, but the San Diego State sophomore birdied three in a row (Nos. 5, 6 and 7) to return the match to all square.

Another birdie binge would follow. After Schniederjans regained a 1-up advantage with a par on the difficult 15th, Yang went on a torrid run that left Schniederjans stunned.

On 16, Yang hit a pitching wedge from the fairway bunker to 10 feet. Birdie.

On 17, from nearly the same yardage (142) as the hole before, he stuffed his tee shot to 7 feet. Birdie.

And though the tee was moved up on the par-5 18th, making a narrow fairway even tighter, he bombed a 320-yard drive that left him only a 6-iron into the green. After Schniederjans’ shot from the bunker trickled onto the back fringe, Yang hit a bullet from 190 yards that settled 15 feet away for an easy two-putt birdie to close out the win.

“He was out of his mind, really,” said Schniederjans, who shot 3 under on his own ball, counting the usual concessions. “It took everything he had to get 1 up, so I’m proud I was that hard to beat.”

But there was no mistaking that the disappointment will take a few days, maybe even a week, to subside. 

While Schniederjans slumped on a bench in the locker room, Yang smiled wide as he sat on a wooden chair in the upstairs media center, reliving the best round of his life.

USGA/Chris Keane

Even with broken driver, Salinda beats Hagestad at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 17, 2018, 2:52 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – With a trip to the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals on the line, and with the Pacific Ocean staring him in the face, Isaiah Salinda piped a 330-yard drive down Pebble Beach’s 18th hole.

Not a bad poke with a replacement driver.

Salinda’s Round of 16 match against Stewart Hagestad got off to a rocky start Thursday afternoon with an awkward tee shot on the second hole.

“The ball came out weird, with no spin,” said Salinda’s caddie and former Stanford teammate, Bradley Knox. “He said, ‘Yeah, that felt weird.’”

Salinda looked at the bottom of his Callaway Epic driver and noticed a crack.

Worried that they'd have to play the rest of the round with only a 3-wood, Knox called a Callaway equipment rep, told him the issue, and was relieved to hear he'd meet them at the back of the third tee. Salinda teed off the next hole with a 3-wood – he’d taken driver there all week – and wound up in a tricky spot, on the side of a mound, leading to a bogey.

“Then they came over and cranked the driver,” Knox said. “It was like a NASCAR pit crew.”

The replacement driver was nearly identical – same head, same loft, same weighting – except for the lie angle. The new one was a degree flatter than his gamer, which led to a few more pulled shots than usual.

“It took a little while to recover the mindset that we’d had the rest of the week,” Knox said.

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

Salinda downplayed the equipment malfunction – “I just had to adjust, and it wasn’t really a problem” – but he didn’t play well early. After trailing for just one hole during his first two matches, he was 4 over par and 2 down through 10 holes against Hagestad, the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who’d finally made match play after eight previous failed attempts.

On 11, Salinda finally got going, stuffing a wedge shot to 10 feet and recording his first birdie. He followed with three clutch pars before another good approach on 15, leading to a conceded birdie to square the match.

On the home hole, Salinda bombed his drive about 30 yards past Hagestad and had 220 yards to the flag. It was a perfect 4-iron distance, and he sent a rocket into a blinding sunset.

“I never saw it,” Salinda said. “I told my caddie: ‘Where is that? I have no idea.’ But it felt good.”

A lone voice shrieked as the ball landed on the green. They knew the shot had to be tight. Years ago, Stanford senior Chris Meyers had made an albatross on 18 for a walkoff victory with Lee Janzen at the PGA Tour Champions’ First Tee Open. Knox thought they’d come close to duplicating the feat.

“Probably almost had a Chris Meyers,” Knox said, chuckling, as they walked up the fairway.

The shot never had a chance to drop – turns out the spectator was well-lubricated – but it still was only 35 feet away, for eagle. Salinda cozied his putt to a few feet and could only watch as Hagestad’s last-ditch 25-footer stopped a rotation short of the cup.

The Round of 16 victory continued a breakout summer for Salinda. His 15th-place showing at the NCAA Championship kick-started a three-month stretch in which he’s finally taken his game to the next level.

“He’s shown flashes of brilliance before,” Knox said, “and he’s had the game. But now he has the consistency and the confidence that it’ll come back time and time again.”

Salinda shot 62 in the third round and won the Pacific Coast Amateur, which boasts one of the strongest fields of the summer. Then he finished third in stroke play at the Western Amateur before a quarterfinal loss in match play.

Now he’s one step closer to his biggest victory yet – even with a backup driver.

Getty Images

Salas (62) leads LPGA's Indy Women in Tech

By Associated PressAugust 17, 2018, 12:50 am

INDIANAPOLIS - Lizette Salas' waited 77 minutes to line up her 4-foot putt to take the lead Thursday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

She refused to let the weather delay get to her.

When the 29-year-old California player returned to the course, she quickly rolled in the birdie putt, finished her round with another birdie at No. 18 and took a two-shot lead over Angel Yin and Nasa Hataoka with a course record-tying 10-under 62.

''I didn't even think about it the entire time,'' Salas said. ''I was hanging out with Danielle (Kang) and she was giving me her silly dad jokes. So it definitely kept my mind off of it. I was really excited to be back and to finish off with a birdie, from off the green, was the icing on the cake.''

It's the lowest score by a female player at the Brickyard Crossing.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson opened last year's inaugural tournament with a 63, one shot off of Mike McCullough's 62 in the PGA Champions Tour's 1999 Comfort Classic.

But the way the saturated 6,456-yard course played Thursday, Salas needed virtually every putt of her career-best round to reach the top of the leaderboard.

The morning starters took advantage of overnight rain by shooting right at the pins.

And nobody made a bigger early splash than Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who finished second in last year's rookie of the year race.

She opened with five straight birdies and shot 8-under 28 on the front nine. Only a par on No. 6 prevented her from becoming the sixth LPGA player to shoot 27 on nine holes. South Korea's Mi Hyang Lee did it most recently at the 2016 JTBC Founders Cup.

Yin also tied the third-lowest nine-hole score in relation to par in tour history.

Her only bobble came with a bogey on No. 13 and she closed out her best career round with a birdie on No. 18.

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

''I have never done that before,'' she said. ''I had nine putts, I think, on the front nine, which is incredible. I've never had that many little putts. But it just felt good. Everything was working.''

Last year's runner-up for rookie of the year has never won an LPGA Tour title in her home country though she did win in a playoff at Dubai on the Ladies European Tour.

Everybody seemed to find their groove Thursday.

Eighty-eight of the 143 players shot under par and 54 were 3-under or better.

And with more rain in the forecast Thursday night and Friday, the scores could go even lower as a star-studded cast chases down Salas, Yin and Hataoka.

Four players, including Kang and Jane Park, are three shots behind.

Seven players, including last year's tournament runner-up Lydia Ko, are four shots back. Ko was tied with Yin for the lead - until she knocked her tee shot on the par-4, 16th into the water. She wound up with a double bogey and birdied the final hole to finish with 66.

After taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion, Thompson looked relaxed and comfortable in her return to the course. She shot 68.

''It was hard for me to take the break because I didn't want to show weakness,'' she said. ''But at the same time, it takes a lot of strength to acknowledge that you need that kind of break and just take time for yourself, especially when you're in the spotlight like this.''

Salas, meanwhile, started fast with an eagle on the par-5 second and finished with a flurry.

She birdied three straight holes on the front side to get to 5-under, added birdies at Nos. 12 and 14 to get to 7-under and then birdied the final three holes - around the approaching storm - to put herself in contention for her first title since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

''I have been just striking the ball really well this entire year, and just glad some more putts dropped today,'' she said. ''I was really refreshed. I didn't practice at all last week, and I was just really eager and excited to be back.''

Getty Images

Sordet opens with 62 to grab lead at Nordea Masters

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2018, 11:23 pm

GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Clement Sordet opened with four straight birdies to shoot 8-under 62 and take the first-round lead of the Nordea Masters on Thursday.

Sordet says ''I wasn't really focusing on the score, I was just enjoying it.''

The Frenchman, who shot his lowest European Tour round, has a two-stroke lead over Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Lee Slattery of England.

Hunter Stewart is the highest-placed American after a 5-under 65 left him on a four-way tie for fourth with Christofer Blomstrand, Tapio Pulkkanen and Richard Green.

Defending champion Renato Paratore's hopes of becoming the first player to successfully retain the title look in doubt after the Italian shot 9-over 79 at Hills Golf Club.

Getty Images

Peterson confirms plans to play Finals

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 9:17 pm

After flirting with retirement for much of the summer, John Peterson confirmed that he will give it one more shot in the upcoming Tour Finals.

Peterson, 29, had planned to walk away from the game and begin a career in real estate in his native Texas if he failed to secure PGA Tour status before his medical extension expired. His T-13 finish last month at The Greenbrier appeared to be enough to net the former NCAA champ at least conditional status, but a closer look at the numbers revealed he missed out by 0.58 points in his last available start.

Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

But Peterson was buoyed by the support he received from his peers at The Greenbrier, and when he got into the Barbasol Championship as a late alternate he decided to make the trip to the tournament. He tied for 21st that week in Kentucky, clinching enough non-member FedExCup points to grant him a spot in the four-event Finals.

Last month Peterson hinted that he would consider playing in the Finals, where 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season will be up for grabs, and Thursday he confirmed in an Instagram post that he will give his pro career "one last push."

The Finals kick off next week in Ohio with the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship and will conclude Sept. 20-23 with the Tour Championship. Peterson will be looking to rekindle his results from 2013, when he finished T-5 or better at each of the four Finals events while earning fully-exempt status as the top money earner.